Less than an hour’s drive from Charlotte, N.C., King Mountain National Military Park tells the story of an early Revolutionary War battle, and the first that I visited. The South Carolina battle site occurred after American patriots were on the run after several losses in 1780. After hearing of these losses, a force of rugged Carolina and Virginia frontiersmen crossed the Appalachians looking for revenge.
They continued east and met up with groups of patriot militia at both Quaker Meadows and Cowpens, as they headed for Kings Mountain. Here, British Major Patrick Ferguson and his army had taken up seemingly strategic positions at the top of the plateau.
Arriving here on October 7 under cover of a rainstorm, the assembled patriot forces encircled the mountain and used the trees of the forested slopes to successfully protect themselves from a hail of musket fire as they advanced up the slopes. Soon the loyalists were surrounded and easy to spot against the treeless summit.
When Major Ferguson was mortally wounded in the saddle, his second in command ordered an immediate surrender, and the patriots had won a stunning victory. In just over an hour, British efforts to conquer the South had been dealt a significant blow, which became a major turning point in the war.
What made this visit to Kings Mountain particularly special was fortuitously meeting a very friendly and interesting fellow traveler, Mike Dryden, an ecological specialist from Knoxville, Tennessee. Not only did we hit it off immediately, but I was soon fascinated to learn that one of Mike’s 18th-century (patriot) forebears had actually fought and lost his life in combat here. Mike’s goal in visiting the park was to see if he could find his relative’s name inscribed in one of the battle monuments on the site.
He seemed genuinely pleased when we did discover the name of 2nd Lieutenant Nathaniel Dryden on not one, but on two of the memorials. So Mike, if you get a chance to read this blog, it was really nice to be able to wander the battlefield at Kings Mountain with a family member of a true American patriot!
Trail leading to the U.S. Monument
Centennial Monument, dedicated in 1880
Name of 2nd Lieutenant Nathaniel Dryden inscribed on the Centennial Monument